Bodily Harm (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
The violence that human beings inflict on one another and their isolation in an uncaring world are pervasive themes in Margaret Atwood’s work. Bodily Harm, her fifth novel, is in many respects her bleakest, though it holds out some hope in the form of compassion to be shared by those who are victims of bodily harm in any form. The novel suggests that every person falls into this category. All are victims. There is no exemption, no escape for anyone.
Rennie Wilford, the central character, is a type who will be familiar to readers of Atwood’s earlier novels—the university-educated young Canadian woman of Anglo-Saxon heritage who is mildly rebellious against the stuffy respectability of her past but far from free of its influences. She is a “lifestyles” journalist, writing about fast-food restaurants, “drain chain” jewelry, how to pick up men in laundromats—in short, about the surfaces of life. She left college in the early 1970’s expecting to dedicate herself to causes, to honest explorations of serious issues, but she soon found herself drifting toward externals, concerned more with what protesters were wearing and eating than with the issues of their protests. She has successfully avoided making deep commitments to anything or anyone, even Jake, the man with whom she lives. Significantly, he too is a person connected chiefly...
(The entire section is 1946 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
The Atlantic. CCXLIX, April, 1982, p. 110.
Commonweal. CIX, September 24, 1982, p. 506.
Library Journal. CVII, February 15, 1982, p. 471.
New Statesman. CIII, June 11, 1982, p. 31.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, March 21, 1982, p. 3.
Newsweek. XCIX, January 29, 1982, p. 71.
Saturday Review. IX, March, 1982, p. 62.
Times Literary Supplement. June 11, 1982, p. 643.
(The entire section is 42 words.)